There’s a new focus around the Clay wrestling team’s practice room this week.
The Eagles will host the 10-team Division I sectional tournament on Saturday in what is the first step toward reaching every wrestler’s goal, the state tournament.
Coach Ralph Cubberly’s Eagles, who defended their Three Rivers Athletic Conference tournament title earlier this month and reached the D-I State Duals quarterfinals, are now on a mission to get as many individuals as they can to the state tourney in Columbus in two weeks.
|Clay senior Brian Henneman(right) against Central Catholic
sophomore Nate Hagan in the Three Rivers Athletic Confer-
ence 126 pound final. (Press photo by Scott Grau)
“We’ve shifted to a more individualized coaching method, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of each wrestler,” said Cubberly, whose team won eight weight classes at the TRAC tournament. “Our team goal is to finish in the top 10 of the state tournament by advancing and placing as many wrestlers as possible.
“Winning the TRAC championship said a lot about the overall strength of this team. Everyone contributed to that victory, and it took each member in order to win. The league has a lot of great coaches and individual wrestlers, and in order to win you have to place in almost all the weight classes.”
Clay, which was ranked fifth in the final Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association state poll, took fifth at last year’s D-I state tournament. The Eagles are favored to win this week’s sectional, which will include teams from Anthony Wayne, Maumee, Perrysburg, Northview, Southview, St. John’s Jesuit, St. Francis de Sales, Springfield, and Whitmer.
The top four placers from each weight class advance to next week’s district tournament at Cleveland State University.
The Eagles reached the quarterfinals of the State Duals, which is sanctioned by the Ohio High School Athletic Association, by beating Whitmer (69-6), Southview (51-21), Perrysburg (34-25) and Sidney (54-13). They met fourth-ranked Brecksville-Broadview Heights in the quarterfinals and suffered a 40-19 loss.
Richie Screptock, at 120 pounds, Matt Stencel (182), Jarred Gray (220) and heavyweight Antonio Zapata all won matches for Clay against the Bees, champions of the Southwestern Conference.
“Qualifying for the State Duals was a great accomplishment for the program,” Cubberly said. “We were only the second boys’ team to ever qualify to the state championships from Clay (the baseball team won a state title in 1979), so breaking that drought was important not only to the program but also the entire Oregon community.
“The matches against Brecksville will serve our program well. We now understand that we need to make adjustments in our match tactics and that we must improve in some areas. Despite the loss, we will improve because of it.”
The Eagles have several “hot” wrestlers heading into the sectional, including 113-pounder Jared Davis, Screptock, Brian Henneman (126) and Gavin Nelson (132). Davis, a junior, is 26-9 and took seventh at 106 at last year’s state tournament.
“Jared is a dedicated and disciplined wrestler who will be tough for anyone to defeat,” Cubberly said. “We look for good things from Jared at this point in the season.”
Screptock, a sophomore who was seventh in the state at 113 a year ago, has an impressive 41-4 record.
“Richie is working hard at improving some of the little things it takes to be a high-placer at state,” Cubberly said. “He is a non-stop worker and competitor. Brian (36-8) is putting together a great season because of his work effort and hard training habits, and Gavin (37-8) is a dedicated hard worker who has great potential.”
Other Clay individuals whom Cubberly expects to do well this postseason include Damon Dominque (26-6 at 152 pounds), Nick Stencel (36-9, 160), Matt Stencel (29-6, 170), Eddie Silva (34-7, 182) and Zapata (27-15) Silva was a state tournament alternate last year.
“Damon has the athletic ability to be a placer at the state level,” Cubberly said. “Nick is a great athlete with an unlimited gas tank, and Matt Stencel has won some huge matches at 182 this season and will be a force to be reckoned with at 170 pounds. Eddie will be moving down to 182 for the sectional, and we expect big things from him. Antonio is learning how to wrestle in the heavyweight class and is coming on strong at the right time.”
The most important thing for the Eagles at this point is to place in the top four at sectionals and advance to Cleveland State.
“Winning the sectional will be a tough task because of the caliber of teams such as Perrysburg,” Cubberly said. “It will be a plus if the individuals can win their weight class, but it is important to just move to the next week at this point.”